January 1991 Issue By Charles D. Schaeffer
The 80th Pursuit Group was born in the wake of Pearl Harbor and shortly after the United States entry into World War II. Commissioned on Jan. 13, 1942, along with other Fighter Units ordered by Congress. It was activated at Selfridge, Michigan, on the 9th of Feb. 1942, with three squadrons, 88th, 89th and 90th Pursuit Squadrons. The first few months were uneventful, as almost all the administration and organizational functions were being preformed by almost all enlisted personnel awaiting the arrival of planes and pilots. On the 12th of May, 1942, the "Pursuit" was changed to "Fighter." Just before starting flying missions, the 80th was transferred to Bridgeport, Connecticut, and again on the 20th of June to Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York. Just two weeks later, the group was in Farmingdale, New York, and only ten miles from the home of the P-47 Thunderbolts that they would spend many hours learning everything about. They spent the next seven months on Fighter tactics, combat strategies, and had the additional role of providing Air Defense for the New York area. On the 15th of February, the groups aircraft were transferred to the 328th Fighter Group and the 80th was placed on alert for overseas which lasted for three months . . . continuation of Technical Training, marking supplies, equipment and updating and reviewing of all personal and flying equipment was completed. Then, without warning, the group pilots were sent to Richmond, Virginia, to check out and log 30 hours in the P-40s. Engineering officers and some technicians were sent to Curtis Wright Corp., in Buffalo, New York, for instructions in assembling and maintenance of the P-40 N series. Most thought the group was headed for Europe, but that faded when they were reissued tropical gear.
A Condensed History of 80th Fighter Group
|Finally, on 30th of April, 1943, the group entered final staging at Camp Kilmer in the Mitchell Field Area. Despite its long alert period and the resulting low morale, the group received a commendation at Camp Kilmer for being "the best outfitted and the best prepared in every way" of any unit that had gone through the staging area. At the time of final staging, the group consisted of 133 officers, and 806 enlisted men. The 80th and its equipment arrived in the New York port area on May 9, 1943, following a train ride from Camp Kilmer to Hoboken, New Jersey, and a ferry ride up the Hudson River. The ship they sailed on was the HMS Mauretania, a 739-foot luxury liner designed for about 700 passengers. It carried more than 7,000 troops aboard. In all, the trip to Karachi, India, took 50 days. They left Port of New York on 10th of May, 1943, by way of Trinidad for supplies, Rio de Janeiro, Capetown, South Africa, Diego Suarez, Madagascar, Colombo, Ceylon, where they changed ships to the HMS Strathmore and on to Bombay, India. In Bombay, India, they changed ships again and boarded HMS Eastern Prince, and arrived at the final destination in Karachi, India, on the 28th of July. When the 80th Fighter Group arrived in Karachi, India, on the 28th of July, all personnel were taken by "Motor Transport" to New Malir. The first "Home" overseas was located 15 miles from Karachi, located on the edge of the Saudi Desert. For details of the month-long stay at New Malir, the Group's history records that: "Our days were spent at New Malir in arranging equipment, supplies, and establishing a group headquarters. The planes the pilots were to fly had to arrive, be uncrated and assembled and the pilots all were to receive additional training hours at the OTU base at Laudhi Field, some eight or ten miles away. About 90 percent of the personnel were nursed back to health after a bout with dysentery before they could get on with flying P-40 A' and B's that had been returned to India by the Flying Tigers. The first squadron to leave the area in August, 1943, was the 89th which was scheduled to settle in Gushkara, Eastern India. The 300 men and accompanying supplies rode 1,300 miles over broad, meter, and narrow gauge railroad tracks in searing heat and crowded cars. Then the Squadron was loaded onto riverboats and traveled 900 miles down the Ganges River and up the Bramhaputra River, reloaded onto trucks to the Assam Valley. You might say that they took the scenic route! The 88th Squadron and the 90th Squadron followed a week apart; the 88th to Kilibari and the 90th to Jorhat. All took the "scenic route" with a good view of India and its dusty roads, people washing themselves in rivers and ponds alongwith the groaning bullock carts, and using the same water for everything. Cattle roaming the streets and bamboo everywhere. Finally the Group was settled and our mission was to patrol the cargo airlift from Assam to China "The Hump." The group also provided offensive strikes in the Hukwang Valley of Northern Burma and to protect the Allied Engineers building the Ledo Road, which was the land supply route from the Ledo, India, railhead through the Burmese jungles and Hukwang Valley connecting the old Burma Road, near Myitkyina, Burma. General Stilwell's Chinese Troops and General Merrill's Marauders were clearing the area of Japanese Troops and also welcomed the 80th Fighter Group. The 80th Fighter Group was the first Fighter Group in Burma during WW II, flying P-40s after the Flying Tigers moved to China. After Myitkyina was captured on the 4th of August, 1944, the 80th had a flight of P-40s and personnel at the airfield while the Chinese were forcing the Japanese off the other end of the runway. The 80th held the record of flying the shortest mission of 10 to 15 minutes, bombing the enemy positions in the city, some within 40 yards of our own troops (one 10 yards). The 80th gave 80 percent of the fighter bomber support. All together, the totals expended: 435 tons of bombs, 489,808 rounds of 50 cal. ammunition, 1948 sorties, 3,632 hours, 204,886 gallons of gasoline. Altogether, 20 percent more than the artillery had delivered. In terms of actual dollars, the 80th reported expenditures of $220,483 on 3,252 bombs dropped and $88,382 for 489,000 rounds of 50 caliber ammunition of the 79 day drive. Lost six P-40s and two pilots. The 80th continued to support the Allied Forces on their way south to Katha, Bhamo, and finally Rangoon, clearing out pockets of encircled Japanese troops. The P-40s were phased out in February of 1945 and replaced by P-47s to give a longer range, altitude, and fire power required for longer missions. In July of 1945, the 80th was recalled back to India as the war in China was winding down. They returned to the U.S.A. in October of 1945 and deactivated on November 3d of 1945.|